One day in June 2008 the heads of the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank Group, Islamic Development Bank Group, African Union Commission, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, European Commission and World Bank Group put pen to paper.
They were endorsing recommendations many believed would, if fully implemented, see the continent achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals.
It was rightly noted that memorable day that the MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals held the promise of saving millions of lives in Africa, empowering women and addressing the scourges of illiteracy, hunger and malnutrition.
It was also expected that the goals would help ensure that Africa’s children had access to high-quality education and good health that would enable them to lead more productive and meaningful lives.
Factors relating to climate change, civil strife and conflicts generally, lack or misallocation of financial and other resources, lack of political will despite earlier commitment, have made the achievement of most of these goals by the 2015 target very difficult.
For instance, those endorsing the recommendations acknowledged that rises in food prices were putting great pressure on African economies and “threatening to unravel hard-won progress in fighting hunger and malnutrition”.
It was further noted that lack of transport, electricity, communication networks, water and sanitation seriously impeded economic growth, trade and poverty alleviation across the continent.
Yet they still saw the situation as a kind of blessing in disguise in that it those really vigilant would see it offering “a window of opportunity to increase needed expenditures in agriculture”, easily the mainstay of the economies of most developing countries.
We also know that, alongside eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and reducing child mortality, the MDGs were meant to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, improve maternal health, ensure environmental sustainability, and promote gender equality in part by empowering women.
The extent to African countries have gone towards battling these hurdles is what has, by and large, determined the headway each has made towards the goals cited – and the pace has clearly not been uniform.
For instance, with respect to the goal relating to the empowerment of women and generally promoting gender equality, there are countries that have gone as far as invoking the law in ensuring that gender-based violence does not eat into efforts to ensure smooth implementation.
But there is impeccable evidence that merely invoking even the severest of legal measures seldom guarantees success in the war on GBV in the form of rapes, having widows or orphans dispossessed of property that is rightfully their, etc., that crop up so often that they are finally taken for granted.
Politicians, academics, students, human rights crusaders, civil society organisations, NGOs and the media are among those that have over the years appealed for action against factors and elements sabotaging efforts to achieve MDGs so that our people lead more enriching lives.
But these voices have made little impact, and serious problems remain, while time is fast running out. We therefore must join hands with the government in devising and implementing more workable ways of making our dreams of a better life for every Tanzanian come true.